Volunteer register for new trials to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

The Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) has launched a new dementia prevention and treatment trial volunteer register as Australia prepares to join trials to treat Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms emerge.

University of Melbourne Professor, ADNeT Director and leading dementia neuroscientist Christopher Rowe, said until now Australia had experienced difficulties recruiting participants for dementia trials.

“Slow recruitment delays the development of treatments that are urgently needed to tackle the dementia epidemic,” Professor Rowe said.

“Dementia is Australia’s second leading cause of death and the greatest cause of disability in Australians aged 65 and over. An estimated 500,000 Australians are living with dementia and care for them costs the nation $15 billion per year.”

ADNeT’s volunteer register and screening program was developed to attract and screen participants for treatment trials to reduce the recruitment time and boost the number of trials and participants in Australia. “This will help us get effective treatments sooner,” Professor Rowe said.

This approach has proven a winner, with news that new dementia prevention and treatment trials involving Australia will begin recruitment soon.

Despite some controversy it has long been thought that the accumulation in the brain of the protein beta amyloid in the form of plaques is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the main cause of dementia in Australia.

“Amyloid plaques slowly build up in the brain over many years before damage occurs and signs of dementia such as memory loss and confusion appear,” Professor Rowe said.

“This gives us the opportunity to use a brain scan to detect these plaques in the brain and identify people at risk of dementia from Alzheimer’s disease before any symptoms have appeared.”

Professor Rowe said there are now four anti-amyloid antibody drugs from four different companies at different stages of trials that have been proven to dramatically clear plaques from people with Alzheimer’s disease. These antibody drugs attack the plaques and stimulate the patient’s own immune system to remove the plaques.

“So far, these drugs have only been given to patients with mild dementia and in most studies, these drugs have slowed the worsening of the dementia,” he said. “This is very encouraging but greater benefit would come from preventing or delaying the onset of dementia, so we need to give these treatments earlier.”

ADNeT is now looking for volunteers over the age of 55 with normal memory function who are concerned about their dementia risk. Participants will be tested for amyloid plaques. If plaques are present, they will be given the opportunity to participate in clinical trials to see if removing the plaques before symptoms have developed can delay or stop the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Australian Dementia Network, a partnership of leading dementia researchers from across Australia and led by the University of Melbourne, is supporting these studies.

Interest can be registered at the Australian Dementia Network website.